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Touting his environmental record, Trump brags about Obama-era air

Donald Trump wants to be seen as "an environmentalist." He's doing it wrong.
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant drift skyward in Ghent, Ky., June 2, 2014.
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant drift skyward in Ghent, Ky., June 2, 2014.

Donald Trump has been alarmingly aggressive in going after environmental safeguards, relaxing pollution rules in the name of economic progress. The New York Times  reported in August that, in the fine print of the Trump administration's emissions plan, the Republican's EPA "predicts its plan will see between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030."

It's against this backdrop that the president wants to be seen as, as Trump puts it, "an environmentalist."

He said last week, for example, "When you talk about environmental, I am truly an environmentalist. A lot of people smile when they hear that. But I have the cleanest air, and I'm going to have the cleanest air." Similarly, Trump promoted a photoshopped global map yesterday, which the president said offered proof that the United States, "by far," has the "Cleanest Air in the World." (Why he capitalized those words was unclear.)

Is this true? Alas, no. For one thing, the map pointed to air quality in 2016, which meant Trump was actually bragging about Obama-era air. For another, The New Republic's Emily Atkin explained that the president didn't look closely enough at the map he was so proud of.

This map does show that the U.S., on average and as a whole, has acceptable levels of particulate matter pollution every year.... It does not, however, prove that the U.S. has the cleanest air "by far." The map clearly shows Canada, Australia, and some European countries in the same light color as the U.S., meaning they too have acceptable levels of pollution. [...]Also, America's air is not healthy everywhere. Contrary to Trump's claim that "none in [the] U.S." are affected by air pollution, 38 of the 372 U.S. cities and towns in the WHO database were shown to have particulate matter concentrations above the agency's recommended level of 10 micrograms -- including Fresco, California; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Chicago, Illinois.

Wait, it gets a little worse.

Examining the World Health Organization's data, Emily Atkin's analysis also found the United States ranks 11th globally on smog pollution.

What's more, in August, Trump boasted at an event in West Virginia, "I want clean air. I want crystal clean water. And we've got it. We've got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There's nobody cleaner than us."

The New York Times  reported the next day, "The United States ranked 27th out of 180 countries in an environmental performance review, compiled by Yale and Columbia University researchers in collaboration with the World Economic Forum in 2018. (Switzerland topped the list.)"

As the congressional midterm elections draw near, Trump's closing message is largely made up of an avalanche of falsehoods. We now have a new one for the list.